I decided to chill this weekend and do things around and inside the house as I will be taking a long weekend next week for a road trip and the OFO Niagara River Gull Watch. Also decided to update the Blog including the Blogs I follow (huge increase here), and my profile.
One question I've had a lot of people ask me this year is where I work. Mind you, I change jobs very often. In the last few years I have worked at the Pelee Island Winery, Marks Work Wearhouse, Pelee Wings Nature Store, and now I'm at a local greenhouse where I head their Integrated Pest Management program. That is when a lot of people ask me what Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is.
IPM is what many businesses that grow plants implement to prevent and control pests by monitoring their plants and use an array of control methods when they are needed, while preventing them from reoccurring. Pests include weeds, insects, diseases, fungi, nematodes or even animals such as deer, skunk and rats. IPM can be used in many businesses such as greenhouse (horticulture), golf courses, and even in large cash crop productions for example.
There are really five components of IPM: Iidentification (what the pest is), Monitoring (doing weekly surveys of the crops in the greenhouses where I work for example), Thresholds (identify the time at which the pest needs to be controlled to prevent damage to the crop), Methods of Control (biologically, chemically, or even as easy as putting up sticky cards where I work), and Evaluation (writing reports after we survey the greenhouse crops to identify where the pests are, and how successful our decided method of control was.)
Where I work we have mainly tomatoes and peppers, and with them there are a few pest insects that we look for each week (aphids, spider mite, thrips, and whitefly being the main ones) along with diseases plants may get (tomato spotted wilt virus, canker, pithium, and blight to name a few).
Controlling pest insects by introducing predator insects to control them is very fascinating and there is a sense of accomplishment when you can control pest insects without having to resort to spraying with chemicals. For one thing, spraying with chemicals can eventually reduce your yield, it's bad for the environment (not to mention your health), and pest insects may build up resistance to chemicals, and you don't want "super bugs" ruining your crop!
For me it's a lot like birding. You go out and look for things everyday! Whether it be a good bug, a bad bug, or even one of your good bugs eating a bad bug, there is usually always something new to see and learn. By writing detailed reports my team and I get to see what works, what didn't work out so well, and with this information we can see how to improve the program for next year. This is where I'm at now, trying to figure out next year's plan.
Of course weather plays a huge role (even when you are in a greenhouse) and no one has a clue what that will be like! Will we have a cool spring? a hot spring? a hot dry summer? a cool summer? a wet summer? All these elements play an integrate role in our IPM program. Perfect scenario would be a COLD winter, a cool wet spring, a warm (not hot and humid) summer, and a cool fall. This past year was a mild winter (so many insects survived), a mild spring (build up of insect populations), and a hot humid summer (perfect for breeding insects). A great year for butterflies yes, but a nasty year for those insects you don't want in your crops like spider mite, thrip, and whitefly.
But if it was perfect, my job would be boring! :D